Humans are creatures of habit. We gravitate toward the new and novel. Internet statistics back this up: People visit the same number of websites every day, usually an average of 10. But we only go back if we find fresh, hyper-relevant content every time.
This tension presents a fascinating dilemma for content marketers: How do we create content that earns us the right to become a daily habit for our target consumer?
Many are attempting the challenge. Stats show that 86 percent of B2B marketers already use content marketing, and 55 percent will increase their marketing technology spend in 2015. But with Web, social media, and television content catapulting 3,000 brand messages a day at the average consumer, there’s a lot that’s not working. People have begun to tune marketers out.
I’m not saying anything new. It’s time for an innovative approach. Marketers know this, and it freaks a lot of them out. I see that over and over when I talk to them every day.
Most of what used to work simply doesn’t anymore. Brands see less than 0.1 percent click-through rates on banner advertising. Over four million people register complaints against telemarketers. New tools demand new skill sets, which may explain why half of CIOs and CMOs say they don’t trust current management with the intersection of marketing technology.
Innovation is now a survival tactic. But what is innovation? Is it luck, or does it comprise repeatable components? Regardless, it can be intimidating for the content marketer. Are you part of the paralyzed pack, or forging ahead on the fumes of incredible opportunity?
To be honest, it’s probably best to ignore that question. Take your mark, get set, and use these four pieces of advice to figure it out as you go:
To many, innovation conjures up grandiose ideas akin to solving world hunger—especially when your manager or director is breathing down your neck. But as studies increasingly show, innovation looks boring up close. Simplicity is often what sells best.
Here’s what many don’t realize: Most disruptive game changers reflect the final product of an idea that’s evolved over time. So, as it relates to content marketing, try coming up with bite-size, incremental ideas that drive the current thinking forward a little, such as:
Innovation happens when you lower the pressure, start your creative process, and captivate. Awareness and interest drive engagement, which converts.
Welcome to the other side of the innovation yin and yang. Eventually, even the most successful products fail because a better idea comes along. (iPhone 4, anyone?)
Innovation has risks, sure. You might lose income, fall short of a dream, or lose stakeholder trust—an increasingly common problem, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer. But what if the fear motivated you? That’s a question of perspective: Do you obsess over what you have to lose, or what you have to gain?
For example, imagine you rallied internal stakeholders across your enterprise to share their unique subject matter expertise as it relates to one big idea—say collaboration, intrapreneurship, or efficiency. In the early days, you might find it difficult to get contributors to meet their deadlines or adhere to content quality standards.
You could let that “failure” discourage you, or be inspired to create internal content standards and formalized trainings; determine an editorial calendar yourself, allowing contributors to claim topics to write about; and pair those experts with journalists who can ghostwrite their content.
Risk and reward have been married for centuries, and divorce isn’t anywhere on the horizon. Innovation is a process where, if you insist on it, the failure loop always closes.
The more often you fail, the more prone you are to recognize patterns within your failures. When it comes to content strategy, this may be why many have up-leveled art for science, achieving many innovative ends, such as:
To show you what I mean, consider this painting:
I first attempted this painting in the hopes of exploring and understanding one simple concept. I can’t say it really worked. I mean, look at the madness! But what I learned from this failed attempt at creative innovation is that chaos is often the first product of creativity. That can be frustrating, especially at first. (It was for me.) But it was a productive failure because it showed me what I wanted to change.
Innovation means a continued cycle of persisting and simplifying. Just as simplicity sells, true innovation is almost invisible—even in content marketing.
As humans, we tend to go to unnecessary extremes. What if you prioritized calculated risk? According to experts, this is where most progress happens, whether it’s a proven methodology like the Rapid Innovation Cycle, which structures innovation into four steps, or a series of market analysis questions to analyze opportunity.
If you’re following a process and changing it while you monitor it, you’re getting somewhere. Try asking yourself:
Here is my next attempt at the above painting:
I gotta say, I like it much better—probably because it’s simpler. And that is something that was only possible for me as an artist because I learned from what I’d done and didn’t like before.
Innovation means missing the mark over and over, but knowing you’ll get closer the next time you try.
So, what does innovation mean for you this year? Can you innovate faster and set yourself up for success? Yes. These three questions might be helpful as you consider how to step it up:
There’s one question I love most of all. Sit with it:
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